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Edits to a will

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What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Wisconsin

My uncle passed away recently and this weekend I was able to find his will. I have sent it to the attorney to be filed, but he is out of town this week and I have a nagging question.

The actual will is signed, witnessed etc in 1999, it is however a copy. I was unable to find the original. In the will, he names his executor, secondary executor and 8 beneficiaries to his estate; this is all type written. It was signed again in 2006 by my uncle and a different witness. In addition, there are 2 of the 8 names marked through with a black marker with initials an date next to them from 2008.

Any thoughts on if the will is still considered valid? If it is still valid, which version? the original type or minus the crossed out names (which can still be read)?
 


Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Wisconsin

My uncle passed away recently and this weekend I was able to find his will. I have sent it to the attorney to be filed, but he is out of town this week and I have a nagging question.

The actual will is signed, witnessed etc in 1999, it is however a copy. I was unable to find the original. In the will, he names his executor, secondary executor and 8 beneficiaries to his estate; this is all type written. It was signed again in 2006 by my uncle and a different witness. In addition, there are 2 of the 8 names marked through with a black marker with initials an date next to them from 2008.

Any thoughts on if the will is still considered valid? If it is still valid, which version? the original type or minus the crossed out names (which can still be read)?
It is possible that the will could be found to be valid by the court. You will wish to review http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/853.pdf and also https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/856/17.

This is not going to be a do it yourself project.



My condolences on your family's loss.
 
It is possible that the will could be found to be valid by the court. You will wish to review http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/853.pdf and also https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/856/17.

This is not going to be a do it yourself project.



My condolences on your family's loss.
Thank you.

So this: "Any additions to or deletions from the face of the form of the Wisconsin basic will or basic will with trust, other than in accordance with the instructions, shall be ineffective and shall be disregarded." and "YOU CANNOT CHANGE, DELETE OR ADD WORDS TO THE FACE OF THIS WISCONSIN BASIC WILL. YOU MAY REVOKE THIS WISCONSIN BASIC WILL, AND YOU MAY CHANGE IT BY SIGNING A NEW WILL."
lead me to believe that if they do validate the will, it will be the original, un-edited version.
 

Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
Thank you.

So this: "Any additions to or deletions from the face of the form of the Wisconsin basic will or basic will with trust, other than in accordance with the instructions, shall be ineffective and shall be disregarded." and "YOU CANNOT CHANGE, DELETE OR ADD WORDS TO THE FACE OF THIS WISCONSIN BASIC WILL. YOU MAY REVOKE THIS WISCONSIN BASIC WILL, AND YOU MAY CHANGE IT BY SIGNING A NEW WILL."
lead me to believe that if they do validate the will, it will be the original, un-edited version.
Your uncle's will was not a "Basic Will".
 
Your uncle's will was not a "Basic Will".
True. Does it matter that it was written while he resided in a different state?

As you said, it's complicated and definitely need a lawyer. Which there is one, I am just trying to educate myself so I can ask intelligent questions.
 

latigo

Senior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Wisconsin

My uncle passed away recently and this weekend I was able to find his will. I have sent it to the attorney to be filed, but he is out of town this week and I have a nagging question.

The actual will is signed, witnessed etc in 1999, it is however a copy. I was unable to find the original. In the will, he names his executor, secondary executor and 8 beneficiaries to his estate; this is all type written. It was signed again in 2006 by my uncle and a different witness. In addition, there are 2 of the 8 names marked through with a black marker with initials an date next to them from 2008.

Any thoughts on if the will is still considered valid? If it is still valid, which version? the original type or minus the crossed out names (which can still be read)?
I don't wish to discourage you, but your interest in receiving a quick lesson on the arcane laws of wills brings to mind a conversation between a taxi driver and the world famous, "Manhattan Project", theoretical physicist and then recent Nobel Laureate Richard P. Feynman.

Dr. Feynman was returning from Stockholm were he shared the l965 Nobel Prize for his contribution to the development of quantum electrodynamic theory. Recognizing him from the media the cabby politely asked if he would explain the theory that earned him the prize.

Feynman's courteous response was that if it could be gotten across in three minutes he probably wouldn't have been invited to Stockholm. (*)
___________________________

Your best hope is to engage a lawyer that does understand the law of wills and in particular those laws regarding alleged "lost wills" that are applied by the courts in the state of Wisconsin. (If you'd like to take a crack at it here is an older URL containing a comprehensive and scholarly research of the subject : www/ scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2165&)

However, by being unable able to locate an original the first hurdle is to be able to prove that an original once existed and that it was effectively executed and witnessed; that it was a valid will subject to being admitted to probate. (The word "valid" encompassing innumerable factors!)

Next, that it was last known to be in the maker's possession. Because only then does the evidentiary presumption arise that the maker did not purposely revoke the instrument. (Here please note that a will is of no legal consequence, that is of force nor effect until admitted to probate.)

And I personally think that the interlineations noted on the copy will be such evidence of intent to revoke (at least in part) as to pose an insurmountable stumbling block in getting a court to accept this so-called copy as representative of the deceased's testamentary wishes.

I think it is just too large a stretch to convince a court that the alterations to the copy were incorporated into a duly, drawn executed, witnessed and valid will.
 
Update and question

We have made a lot of progress on my uncle's estate, I'm just curious if anyone can give any thoughts on how the judge will look at this.

My uncle had two brothers and a sister, all are deceased. As are mom and dad. No wife and kids.

The only will we found was a copy of one, that had markouts. Beneficiaries are 6 nieces/nephews, two of which were marked out. For two years prior to my uncle's death, he had been trying to revise his will (multiple copies from lawyer encouraging him to sign) which would write one niece back in and still exclude the other. Leaving 5 beneficiaries to split the estate equally.

My sister has applied to be representative/executor. The nieces and nephews that are heirs have been contacted and returned affidavits agreeing to my sister being appointed representative and the will being submitted. We are also submitting affidavits of the 4 cousins that are beneficiaries in the marked out will to honor uncle's last unsigned will that includes the 5th cousin.

I'm just wondering how others think this will play out. The probate attorney seems pretty confident that the judge will accept the mark out will and the affidavits of the beneficiaries to include the 5th cousin. I know there is something in Wisconsin of a "simple will". My uncle's will is definitely not a simple will.
 

latigo

Senior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Wisconsin

My uncle passed away recently and this weekend I was able to find his will. I have sent it to the attorney to be filed, but he is out of town this week and I have a nagging question.

The actual will is signed, witnessed etc in 1999, it is however a copy. I was unable to find the original. In the will, he names his executor, secondary executor and 8 beneficiaries to his estate; this is all type written. It was signed again in 2006 by my uncle and a different witness. In addition, there are 2 of the 8 names marked through with a black marker with initials an date next to them from 2008.

Any thoughts on if the will is still considered valid? If it is still valid, which version? the original type or minus the crossed out names (which can still be read)?
How do you know what transpired with respect to the "actual will" when the instrument you sent to the lawyer is a "copy". And how can you say that its a copy. A copy of what? Something that has yet to be discovered?

Is it considered valid? No, it will not be admitted to probate; neither "version".
 

Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
I know there is something in Wisconsin of a "simple will". My uncle's will is definitely not a simple will.
Please get the idea of a "Simple Will" out of your mind. "Simple Will" is simply the name of a preprinted form will that is, basically, a fill-in-the-blank form. Nobody here, or anywhere else thinks your uncle's will is a "Simple Will".
 
How do you know what transpired with respect to the "actual will" when the instrument you sent to the lawyer is a "copy". And how can you say that its a copy. A copy of what? Something that has yet to be discovered?

Is it considered valid? No, it will not be admitted to probate; neither "version".
I say it is a copy because it's obviously a copy. The mark outs and witness signatures added on a later date are originals, you can tell by the indentations on the paper vs lack of indentations. No, I'm not a professional handwriting expert, but I can tell a copy from an original.
 
Update

Update:

Well the edited copy of the will was admitted by the court. The judge has not decided how the estate will be distributed yet, including or excluding the two people that were crossed out. The process seems to take forever! Lesson learned for myself and my husband, make sure your affairs are in order early.
 
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